On an Espresso with… Dipl.-Biol. Dr. rer. nat. Lüder Behrens from Munich

Portrait von Dr. Lüder Behrens

It was not really an espresso – much rather a cappuccino. Yet, an enthusiastic alumnus of the University of Bremen shared with us the valuable memories that significantly shaped his career.


Mr. Behrens, when did you study at the University of Bremen, and what were your reasons to study here?

I started in the winter semester of 1989. Directly after finishing my Abitur, I did two years of civil service. As I am a native of Bremen, I did not have to think twice about it. Biology had been my favorite advanced course in school. I had a teacher in that course who was at the same time my guidance counselor and with whom I spoke about my interest in studying biology. I had also talked to her husband – a chemistry professor at the University of Bremen – in some of the conversations with her, who encouraged me as well. The University of Bremen was thus my obvious choice.

What is your most important memory of the University of Bremen?

(smiles) One of the many important memories was certainly the moment when I first stepped into the university building. Different from school, I had to do everything on my own all of a sudden and could choose my own path. I am sure that has influenced me the most along with a few other things, also as a major step towards my own independence. The University of Bremen was, so to speak, the ‘gate to a new world’ for me, if I am allowed this hyperbole.

Is that what has influenced your career the most?

Self-management and finding one’s own path within a given framework were definitely exciting. Surely, there were also obligations, but you could always think outside the box and consider for yourself what was interesting. I think that the ability to organize myself has been of great significance for me during my studies, as a researcher, and later in my job as a patent attorney. You could really learn that very well at university.

What advice would you like to give the students of the University of Bremen?

The sentence by a biotechnology professor has been stuck in my mind for a really long time. He said: Do you know what studying means? It stems from the Latin ‘studere’ and means I make an effort. I have never checked if this translation is correct but I still find it to be very accurate. That does not mean, however, that you should become an overachiever. Instead, make an effort to find your own path. Therefore, my advice can only be the following: Do not just do something but think about what you’re really interested in, what are you able to do well and what not early on and again and again during your course of studies. Finding a way to shape your ideas then is a privilege because – different from other countries – studying in Germany is basically free of charge. Make the effort to look left and right even if it’s hard – while you’re a student it’s still far easier than later in your career.

Has biology always been your first choice?

Well – actually, I wanted to study medicine after school. But I didn’t know if I could truly handle working with patients. That’s why I did my civil service in the field of intensive care. I wanted to find out how I deal with very serious diseases and the affected patients. After that it was obvious: THAT was apparently not my path; I much rather wanted to find the causes for these diseases. That’s why studying biology seemed like a good fit.

What does the University of Bremen mean for you as an alumnus?

I had many incredibly helpful and approachable professors and lecturers. I would say that the absolute majority was happy about my interest and was extremely open. I still feel very connected with the university and the city of Bremen. I would love to take the possibility of meeting with students and sharing my experiences. An especially lovely moment for me was talking about my current profession in front of biology students. The feedback was very positive. Even from a distance, that is Munich, I continue to be highly interested that the University of Bremen is thriving. As a localist so to speak.

And who are your personal role models?

I didn’t really have professional role models – one usually only knows the public aspect of well-known personalities. But I was always amazed by those who had taken their own path – against all odds – such as Alexander von Humboldt or Charles Darwin, to stick to my field of expertise here. But there were others, too. Those who do more than you can expect. Artists. Musicians. Actually, all people who create something new from within themselves. Those, who come up with ideas, do something that has never been – no matter its outcome.

That sounds as if you, too, have arrived where you have wanted to go. Or is there a secret passion? What would you have become otherwise?

Hmm – if I were in the situation of having to decide again – with my current knowledge – I would have possible gone into medicine. I am confident enough now.

If you were given the opportunity of time travel, where would you go?

If I had the chance of returning here afterwards, and if the time machine could handle it, I would love to travel to the beginning of time; when everything began. To the moment zero or, rather, zero plus 1 second… when time was created. That is surely one of the biggest mysteries to date.

We would like to thank you for the interview and for your memories, Mr. Behrens.

Author: Manuela Brocksieper